EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - An East Texas lawmaker's marijuana bill highlights a possible shift in the conservative outlook on the drug.
Last week, Texas State Representative David Simpson introduced House Bill 2165 which would decriminalize marijuana and regulate the plant like a vegetable.
Members of the Tea Party and an East Texas Republican party chairman tell KLTV 7's Julia Jenae that the potent piece of legislation shocked some, but not all, conservatives.
Chairman of the Smith County Republican Party, Tim McCormick, said the bill caught him and others off-guard.
“I was surprised that Rep. Simpson filed this bill because it goes against the Republican party's platform.”
Though other previously-filed bills pertaining to cannabis in Texas address legalization of the plant for medical purposes, Simpson's is the first bill to propose legalization across the board.
“He is a strong Republican and he is very, very conservative on many issues.” said McCormick. “This one is one that he is in disagreement with many of the people locally.”
Cindy Schwartz of We the People Longview Tea Party, who has backed Simpson is the past, said in a press release that the executive board does not support HB 2165 and had no knowledge of the bill prior to its filing.
One founder of the Tyler Tea Party, Tammy Blair, said not all tea party members oppose the bill.
“Those who like big government for their own purposes would say keep [the law] the way it is.” said Blair. “And those who look for freedom and rule of constitutional law, say it's time to consider lifting these prohibitions.”
Blair said the bill is long overdue and is in line with conservative values.
“The basis of conservatism is limited government, so by criminalizing a plant, you're using the force of government to impose your values on the rest of society.”
According to the
, there were 138,567 arrests for drug abuse violations in Texas in 2013. Over half of those arrests were for violations connected with marijuana manufacturing or possession, totaling 71,761.
Blair said that the bill would keep the government from throwing people in jail because of a plant.
“Is it worth throwing them in jail and ruining their life? It's not,” Blair said.
McCormick says the majority of the Republican party opposes making Texas more like Colorado in legalizing cannabis.
“One [thing] that many people don't think about is that the entire marijuana industry in Colorado, which has become a multi-million dollar industry,” said McCormick. “is all cash, because it's still against federal law.”
Blair sees a shift within the Tea Party and conservatives on the issue of legalization. She said that many look at the topic emotionally instead of logically.
“If you legalized pot, it's not as if there would be an explosion of pot heads,” said Blair. “Those who do [use pot], will. Those who don't, still won't.”
McCormick said he does not expect the bill to pass due to lack of support from both Republicans and Democrats.
“I don't think this is going to get legs in this session.” said McCormick. “It'll take at least another two years, if not much longer…if ever, in Texas.”